Modern Astronomical Evidence for the Star of Bethlehem

from Biblica.

Matthew 2:1-2       The Magi Visit the Messiah

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem     2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

In Matthew’s account of the story of the magi, the ‘guidance’ of a star is mentioned four times (Matthew2:2, 7, 9, 10). Its purpose in terms of the narrative is clear–to guide the wise men to the newborn King. But what scientific validity is there for such a phenomenon?

Given that the magi were almost certainly astrologers, the kind of phenomena familiar to them would have included comets, supernova (though not the term) and a conjunction of  planets, all of which are consistent with modern scientific observation. While open to modern refinement, the definition of a comet  given by the Roman poet Virgil in the Aenid is still valid; „a star leading a meteor flew with much light”. Likewise, records of the conjuction of planets were carefully kept; there was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7 B.C. and of Jupiter and Venus in 6 B.C.

The modern term supernova, a star that suddenly increases in size and brilliance then fades away, may not occur in ancient documentation, but this does not mean the phenomenon was unknown.

Where modern science would differ is in the interpretation held among the ancients. What was important to the astrologer was not only to notice the phenomena, but to search for their meaning. They would have concurred with the statement of Tacitus in his Annals that „the general belief is that a comet means a change of emperor” and that the conjunction of planets is associated with the birth of a king. In fact, a common role for such wise men was to discern the rise of a new king.

If we accept some element of historicity in Matthew’s account, then any number of combinations is possible and consistent with modern astronomical understanding. The star first sighted by the wise men (Matthew 2:2) could be explained as a supernova. Then the „star that  they had seen at its rising” might be a comet that „stopped over the place where the child was”. (Matthew 2:9) Alternately, it could have been a reflection from a planetary conjunction; two of which occurred in 7 B.C. and 6 B.C.– the most likely years of Jesus’ birth.

The occurrence of these phenomena is plausible in terms of modern astronomy, and their coincidence of time and place is not impossible. At some point, it comes down to a belief that it was God who guided the wise men by utilizing the ordinary processes of creation. The event, therefore, is not a violation of nature, nor a contradiction of modern science, but the way in which nature allows for such coincidences to occur. Ultimately, their importance for the Gospel is that God uses them to witness to the truth of Jesus’ identity on behalf of the gentile world.

Cometa Ison a supravietuit apropierea de soare – Comet Ison’s full swing around the sun – Coplesit de Creatia lui Dumnezeu

Photo credit http://earthsky.org Fa click pe poza sa o maresti.

Cometa ISON a supravieţuit trecerii sale pe lângă Soare, joi, şi a fost denumită „cometa zombie” de către astronomii americani, care consideră că acest corp ceresc neobişnuit „s-a întors dintre morţi”.

Trecerea cometei ISON pe lângă Soare s-a produs cu o viteză uluitoare, care a atins 1,4 milioane de kilometri pe oră. Concluziile iniţiale ale experţilor indicau faptul că ISON, un bulgăr uriaş de gheaţă şi praf stelar, venit de la marginea Sistemului Solar, nu a supravieţuit temperaturilor de câteva mii de grade Celsius în timpul apropierii de Soare şi că acest corp ceresc s-a dezintegrat.

Vineri, însă, spre surpriza specialiştilor, o pată strălucitoare şi-a făcut apariţia pe imaginile captate de sonda Soho, exact în locul în care era aşteptată traiectoria cometei ISON.

„Nu ştim deocamdată dacă este vorba de resturi rămase din cometă sau dacă o parte din nucleul cometei a supravieţuit”, afirmă NASA. Analizele preliminare sugerează faptul că cel puţin o parte din nucleul cometei ISON este intact. Deocamdată este prea devreme pentru ca astronomii să poată spune dacă ISON a rămas intactă sau a fost fragmentată şi să indice procentul din masa iniţială care a fost conservat, dar, în orice caz, masa rămasă este suficientă pentru a forma un nucleu cu o activitate vizibilă.

Sursa: http://www.mediafax.ro Vezi mai multe faze cu apropierea de soare, imagini capturate de diferite telescoape NASA, din diferite unghiuri. Cometa o veti vedea venind din partea dreapta, jos a ecranului, va inconjura soarele si se va reintoarce.

ENGLISH:

After several days of continued observations, scientists continue to work to determine and to understand the fate of Comet ISON: There’s no doubt that the comet shrank in size considerably as it rounded the sun and there’s no doubt that something made it out on the other side to shoot back into space. The question remains as to whether the bright spot seen moving away from the sun was simply debris, or whether a small nucleus of the original ball of ice was still there. Regardless, it is likely that it is now only dust.

Comet ISON, which began its journey from the Oort Cloud some 3 million years ago, made its closest approach to the sun on Nov. 28, 2013. The comet was visible in instruments on NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, and the joint European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, via images called coronagraphs. Coronagraphs block out the sun and a considerable distance around it, in order to better observe the dim structures in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. As such, there was a period of several hours when the comet was obscured in these images, blocked from view along with the sun. During this period of time, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory could not see the comet, leading many scientists to surmise that the comet had disintegrated completely. However, something did reappear in SOHO and STEREO coronagraphs some time later – though it was significantly less bright.
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Whether that spot of light was merely a cloud of dust that once was a comet, or if it still had a nucleus – a small ball of its original, icy material – intact, is still unclear. It seems likely that as of Dec. 1, there was no nucleus left. By monitoring its changes in brightness over time, scientists can estimate whether there’s a nucleus or not, but our best chance at knowing for sure will be if the Hubble Space Telescope makes observations later in December 2013.
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Regardless of its fate, Comet ISON did not disappoint researchers. Over the last year, observatories around the world and in space gathered one of the largest sets of comet observations of all time, which should provide fodder for study for years to come. The number of space-based, ground-based, and amateur observations were unprecedented, with twelve NASA space-based assets observing over the past year.

Source NASA.gov

In Awe of God’s Creation – NASA ne arata cum cometa ISON se apropie de soare – ISON comet filmed by NASA – Coplesit de Creatia lui Dumnezeu

Photo credit http://apod.nasa.gov a 23 second trajectory
Cometa Ison apare in partea stanga, jos,
in aceasta filmare de 23 de secunde.
Daca cometa ISON nu va fi distrusa de caldura soarelui,
va fi vizibila pe pamant, cu ochiul liber (fara telescop),
pe data de 28 noiembrie 2013.

Explanation: Still intact, on November 21 Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) swept into this animated field of view (left) from the HI-1 camera on the STEREO-A spacecraft. The camera has also captured periodic Comet Encke, Mercury, and Earth, with the Sun cropped out of the frame at the right, the source of the billowing solar wind. From STEREO’s perspective in interplanetary space, planet Earth is actually the most distant of the group, seen in its orbit beyond the Sun. Mercury is closest, but both planets are still so bright they create sharp vertical lines in the camera’s detector. Both comets clearly sport substantial tails, but ISON is closer to the camera and will continue to move more rapidly through the field. Cameras on STEREO and SOHO spacecraft will be able to follow Comet ISON as it falls towards its close encounter with the Sun on November 28, even as ISON gets more difficult to see in the bright dawn skies of planet Earth.

Photo credit http://www.foxnews.com

ROMANIAN

Dailymail.co.uk via  Descopera.ro – ISON, supranumită „cometa secolului”, care poate fi văzută cu ochiul liber în această perioadă, oferă pasionaţilor de astronomie imagini spectaculoase, însă ar putea să se fragmenteze şi să explodeze în zilele viitoare, pe măsură ce se apropie tot mai mult de Soare. Sâmbătă, experţii au anunţat că ISON a intrat în „modul complet de erupţie”, după ce gradul ei de strălucire a crescut spectaculos în doar 24 de ore. Oamenii de ştiinţă sunt de părere că ISON va deveni şi mai strălucitoare în săptămânile următoare. ISON poate fi urmărită cel mai bine pe un cer întunecat, când linia orizontului nu este obturată, din zonele rurale.

VIDEO by NASA Goddard

NASA Comet ISON’s Path Thru the Solar System
Traiectoria lui ISON prin sistemul solar

Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) may become one of the most dazzling in decades when it rounds the sun later this year. Like all comets, ISON is a clump of frozen gases mixed with dust. Often described as „dirty snowballs,” comets emit gas and dust whenever they venture near enough to the sun that the icy material transforms from a solid to gas, a process called sublimation. Jets powered by sublimating ice also release dust, which reflects sunlight and brightens the comet.

Based on ISON’s orbit, astronomers think the comet is making its first-ever trip through the inner solar system. Before beginning its long fall toward the sun, the comet resided in the Oort comet cloud, a vast shell of perhaps a trillion icy bodies that extends from the outer reaches of the planetary system to about a third of the distance to the star nearest the sun.

Formally designated C/2012 S1 (ISON), the comet was discovered on Sept. 21, 2012, by Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok using a telescope of the International Scientific Optical Network located near Kislovodsk.

The first of several intriguing observing opportunities occurs on Oct. 1, when the inbound comet passes about 6.7 million miles (10.8 million km) from Mars. During this time, the comet may be observable to NASA and ESA spacecraft now working at Mars, including the Curiosity rover.

Fifty-eight days later, on Nov. 28, ISON will make a sweltering passage around the sun. The comet will approach within about 730,000 miles (1.2 million km) of its visible surface, which classifies ISON as a sungrazing comet. In late November, its icy material will furiously sublimate and release torrents of dust as the surface erodes under the sun’s fierce heat, all as sun-monitoring satellites look on. Around this time, the comet may become bright enough to glimpse just by holding up a hand to block the sun’s glare.

Sungrazing comets often shed large fragments or even completely disrupt following close encounters with the sun, but for ISON neither fate is a forgone conclusion.

Following ISON’s solar encounter, the comet will depart the sun and move toward Earth, appearing in evening twilight through December. The comet will swing past Earth on Dec. 26, approaching within 39.9 million miles (64.2 million km) or about 167 times farther than the moon.

VIDEO by ScienceAtNASA  Published on Mar 29, 2013

ISON: Comet of the Century

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